On this day in 1986, at McDonnell Douglas’ production facility at Lambert Field in Saint Louis, Missouri, history was made when the very first F-15E Strike Eagle took to the sky.

In the late 1970s, not long after the Light Gray F-15 established itself as a dominant force in the air superiority arena, McDonnell Douglas began to explore the idea of an Eaglejet variant designed specifically for interdiction missions. Designers envisioned a jet which harnessed the ability to move mud, but retained the ability to fight other airplanes.

After the Air Force ran its Tactical All-Weather Requirements Study, development work began in earnest on a night and all-weather capable, dual-role platform. In March 1981, the USAF announced the Dual-Role Fighter (DRF) competition as a replacement to the F-111 Aardvark and F-4 Phantom.

"Chronic" and "Divot" pull off the tanker in an F-15E Strike Eagle during a mission at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School. (Photo by Scott Wolff)
“Chronic” and “Divot” pull off the tanker in an F-15E Strike Eagle during a mission at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School. (Photo by Scott Wolff)

Both the F-16XL and F-15E were submitted for evaluation, which ran until April of 1983. Both aircraft performed admirably and were legitimate contenders during the evaluation period. On 24 February 1984, the USAF chose the F-15E and expected to procure nearly 400 examples of the design, which won the day based on its two-engine design and lower development costs.